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"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
Taiwan Referendum Stumbles, Chen Pushes Ahead

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Not enough Taiwanese voters cast votes March 20 on a proposed referendum about buying advanced missile defense systems for the results to be official, but President-elect Chen Shui-bian indicated in his acceptance speech that he feels authorized to act.

Chen, who was wounded by a gunshot on the election’s eve and whose miniscule victory margin is being contested by his presidential challenger, declared, “The government will abide by the democratic decisions made directly by the people and respond with concrete action in the new major national policy areas of ‘strengthening defense’ and ‘negotiations based on equality.’”

Although Chen’s statement is somewhat ambiguous, his policy direction seemed to be further clarified by Taiwanese Premier Yu Shyi-kun’s statement that the insufficient voter turnout “does not mean that the public is opposed to the referendum itself or the real significance of the two questions.”

Taiwanese voters were asked to respond to two questions in the island’s first ever referendum. The first asked whether the government should buy advanced missile defenses if China did not stop targeting the island with ballistic missiles. The second asked whether negotiations should be conducted with China to establish cross-strait relations through a so-called peace and stability framework.

More than 90 percent of voters who responded to the two questions cast affirmative votes. However, the number of voters participating did not exceed 50 percent of all eligible voters, which was the legal threshold to make the vote results count. Followers of Chen’s presidential rival boycotted the referendum, which accounts for why roughly 13 million votes were cast in the presidential election, while the referendum questions tallied approximately 7.4 million votes.

Beijing, which strongly dislikes Chen and disapproved of the referendum, crowed March 20, “Facts have proven that this illegal act goes against the will of the people. Any attempt to separate Taiwan from China is doomed to failure.” China earlier condemned the referendum as a thinly disguised attempt by Chen to ease Taiwan toward a declaration of independence, which the mainland resolutely opposes. Whether Taiwan will actually procure missile defenses remains to be seen. Taipei has begged off on past U.S. entreaties to beef up the island’s defenses as being too costly.